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Social dimensions of the human-avian bond: parrots and their persons

By P. K. Anderson

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Though birds are among the most popular companion animals in the United States, little scholarly research has focused on the human- companion parrot relationship. This study uses an ethnographic approach and qualitative analysis to examine the parrot-pet owner relationship. Two and one half weeks of ethnographic fieldwork were carried out in a veterinary clinic specializing in avian and exotic medicine. These observations complement the results of quantitative data and qualitative analysis of texts from questionnaires completed by 100 parrot owners outside the clinic. Both textual analysis and observations in the veterinary clinic revealed some interesting insights into the social dimensions of the human-companion parrot relationship, which was rated superior to that of cats and dogs by some bird owners. Various patterns of human-avian interactions emerged from the data, including childhood experience with birds, affection and physical contact with birds, birds as family members and the nature of the human-parrot bond, infantilization (delayed weaning and parrot as child surrogate), anthropomorphism (celebration of holidays, diet, death and spirituality, and misinterpretation of bird behavior), intersubjectivity and cognition, and anthropocentrism (bird as object). Misinterpretation of bird behavior and failure to recognize the unique physiological and social needs of their species may lead to impaired welfare. On the other hand, according the bird a social status as cherished family member, may enhance their welfare. In addition, other factors are considered that may enhance or detract from the welfare of companion parrots. In a discussion of hypotheses regarding the human-pet bond, it is concluded that the data presented by this study best support the social support hypothesis.

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 371-387
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Publisher Bloomsbury
DOI 10.2752/175303714x13903827488006
Language English
Author Address Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Western Illinois University, 1 University Circel, Macomb, IL 61455-1390,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Analysis
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal hospitals
  4. Animal nutrition
  5. Animals
  6. Animal science
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Anthrozoology
  9. APEC countries
  10. Birds
  11. Canidae
  12. Canine
  13. Carnivores
  14. Cats
  15. Children
  16. Conflict
  17. Developed countries
  18. Dogs
  19. Human behavior
  20. Humans
  21. Interactions
  22. Mammals
  23. Men
  24. North America
  25. OECD countries
  26. Pets and companion animals
  27. Primates
  28. Public Services
  29. Questionnaires
  30. Relationships
  31. services
  32. Social psychology and social anthropology
  33. social welfare
  34. United States of America
  35. vertebrates
  36. Veterinary medicine
  37. weaning